By Stephanie Stahl
BUCKS COUNTY, Pa. (CBS) — The cherished family moments are fading. Fifty-three-year-old Michael Ellenbogen struggles to remember important events with his only child, his beloved daughter Jamie.
Stephanie asked, “What’s Jamie’s birthday? You don’t remember her birthday?”
Michael responded, “I don’t remember it.”
Michael’s mind is being taken away by Alzheimer’s disease. The hard reality is crushing. There is no cure, the treatments are limited. Michael knows his days are numbered.
“I might not be here for my daughter’s wedding and to see her kids,” said Michael.
“I don’t know there’s any way to comfort her. There’s no hope right now,” said Shari Ellenbogen, Michael’s wife.
“It started slowly, with forgetting extension phone numbers within my company,” said Michael. And that was when he was just 39-years-old. His wife knew something was wrong.
“The physicians kept saying he was stressed, he was depressed. They couldn’t find anything wrong,” said Shari.
It took 10 years, a decade of wondering, before he was finally officially diagnosed.
“To find out that we’re stuck with such a significant and devastating illness at this point in time…It’s hard to believe,” Shari said.
People like Michael are rare. Of the five million Americans with Alzheimer’s, only two percent are under the age of 65, which is why it’s often missed in younger people. And here’s the scary part: there’s no telling who it will strike or why.
“I know what I was capable of doing, and I’m seeing myself slowly deteriorate,” said Michael.
“I don’t want him to suffer, that’s what scares me most,” said Shari.
Already, there’s chaos in the once orderly house and frustration. But they’re on a mission to spare other families. The Bucks County couple is working to raise awareness and money for Alzheimer’s research.
And these high school sweethearts are also traveling, trying to enjoy the time they have. They first started dating 30 years ago.
“We have had a great life together. You know, not many people can say that,” said Michael.
Michael is taking a variety of medication. Doctors say they don’t know how long he has, or how rapid the decline will be.
It’s an issue that more and more families will be confronting. Right now, someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s every 69 seconds.
For more on the Michael Ellenbogen movement, click here.
For more on the Alzheimer Association’s Delaware Valley Chapter, click here.